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South Carolina Crystal Ball: Predicting every game for 2023

Aug 17, 2023

Editor’s note: Saturday Down South’s annual Crystal Ball series continues today with South Carolina. We’ll stay with the SEC East all week. Last week, we predicted every game for every SEC West team.

Previously: Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Mississippi State | Ole Miss | Texas A&M | Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | Mizzou

* * * * * * *

It’s cliché, but it’s true. Things change quickly in this sport.

Heading into late-November of last year, South Carolina appeared to be destined for mediocrity. Fresh off a 38-6 blowout loss at Florida, Shane Beamer had a 6-4 team that was facing a pair of matchups against 2 Playoff-hopeful teams to close the regular season. The Gamecocks appeared destined for the Liberty Bowl and the honeymoon phase of the Beamer era was approaching a screeching halt.

And then it all changed.

In a span of 8 days, South Carolina demolished 1-loss Tennessee and then it went into Clemson and handed the Tigers their first home loss in 6 years. It put South Carolina atop the college football world in consecutive weeks, just as the home stretch of the recruiting period approached. Ideal? Absolutely.

If you earned a nickel for every time Beamer was asked about “momentum” because of those 2 victories, you could’ve financed his raise. Beamer is now making $6.5 million annually. That’ll come with an increased set of expectations.

So, will the Gamecocks pick up where they left off? Or will the team that looked like it was destined for mediocrity revert to that?

Let’s see what the 2023 Crystal Ball has to say:

Nobody personified that late-season push better than Rattler. He was a bottom-of-the-pack SEC quarterback before those final 2 games. Then we watched him live up to that former 5-star, Heisman Trophy favorite billing. His decision to return for another year was a monumental win for Beamer and Co.

Did Rattler turn the corner? Or should we just expect him to make some jaw-dropping plays with some head-scratching mistakes over the course of the game? I’d argue the latter is a more appropriate expectation.

Rattler struggled for most of his time in the Marcus Satterfield offense. With Satterfield off to Nebraska, Dowell Loggains was the off-the-radar hire as the Gamecocks’ new play-caller. Loggains has never called plays at the college level, and most recently, he was coaching tight ends at Arkansas. If South Carolina’s offense isn’t more consistent with Rattler, that’ll be a popular topic of conversation.

But Loggains came in with high marks from former Gamecocks Connor Shaw and Alshon Jeffery, both of whom spent time with the new OC while he was with the Chicago Bears. So did Jay Cutler, who gave Loggains glowing remarks upon his arrival. It’s Cutler who might share the most similarities with Rattler, at least from a skillset standpoint.

Does that mean Rattler is destined to become the 1st round prospect that he was billed as entering 2021? No, but it does set the stage for yet another fascinating chapter of his roller-coaster career.

In a perfect world, South Carolina wouldn’t have lost MarShawn Lloyd to USC. Like, the other USC. Ideally, the Gamecocks wouldn’t be entering 2023 with just 4 scholarship running backs and a hope that a converted quarterback/receiver Dakereon Joyner could roll with RB1 duties.

But that’s the situation Beamer is facing.

It’s great that Joyner is so willing to take on that role, which is a fitting way for the 6th-year player to use his last year of eligibility. It’s a bit more daunting that a South Carolina ground game that has yet to finish in the top half of FBS under Beamer is entering a season with a lack of proven backs.

If South Carolina had a dominant offensive line, the topic of backfield depth wouldn’t be so pressing. But that hasn’t been the case. The Gamecocks have yet to average better than 3.78 yards per carry under Beamer, and nobody hit the 700-yard mark in those first 2 seasons.

Now would be a good time for that trend to turn around amidst some low expectations.

To be clear, Beamer Ball isn’t just a special teams deal. It’s the belief that no matter who is on the field, you can score. In 2021, South Carolina had 5 non-offensive touchdowns. In 2022, that number jumped up to 7. That’s 12 non-offensive touchdowns in 26 games during the Beamer era. That’s almost unheard of. South Carolina also forced more turnovers than any SEC team each of the past 2 seasons.

It’s great that South Carolina gets points like that, but ideally, you don’t want to be so reliant on non-offensive touchdowns. At the same time, playing lights out special teams and forcing turnovers isn’t a bad foundation to fall back on. There might not be a better punter in America than Kai Kroger — he might also be the best passing punter in America — and the fact that Xavier Legette has turned into a legitimate kick return threat is a positive. South Carolina has just 1 missed field goal attempt in Beamer’s 2 years in Columbia.

The question isn’t whether Beamer Ball will surface in 2023. It’s just how much we’ll see and how often it’ll be the difference in a game.

Spencer Rattler said that he hopes he and Heisman Trophy-hopeful UNC quarterback Drake Maye “put on a show” in Week 1. My guess is that Rattler delivers on that. Against a UNC defense that was gashed frequently last year, Rattler eventually settles into a nice rhythm. With top target Juice Wells a bit banged up to start the year, Legette shines. Rattler and Maye go blow for blow in a wildly entertaining second half that’s shades of South Carolina’s bowl game against Notre Dame. This time, however, the Gamecocks block a punt that turns into a JuJu McDowell rushing score to take the lead late. The Battle of the Carolinas goes to the Gamecocks.

This has “Nyckoles Harbor breakout game” written all over it. The guy who earned the No. 1 spot on Bruce Feldman’s annual “Freaks List” has his first college touchdown in a dominant Week 2 win.

Finally, Georgia faces a team that deserves to be on the same field. Well, at least that’s the consensus for the first half. South Carolina surprises Georgia by going vertical out of the gate. With the UGA front unable to get home, Rattler has a pair of first-half touchdown passes to Wells and Legette. But South Carolina’s run defense leaves something to be desired all game. A healthy Kendall Milton prevents the Gamecocks from staying within arm’s reach in the second half. UGA rolls to a 42-21 victory in the SEC opener.

Consider this a reminder of why this conference can be so tough to predict. The last time South Carolina stepped into Williams-Brice Stadium against an SEC opponent, Tennessee happened. But 10 months after the Gamecocks shocked the college football world, it can’t muster that same offensive mojo. Mississippi State’s Nathaniel Watson and Jaden Crumedy stuff the developing South Carolina ground game and Rattler forces too many throws in obvious passing situations. A 3-turnover day is the difference in a huge Mississippi State road victory.

You thought last year was a fluke? Nope. With so many of those pieces back from last year’s stunner in Columbia, South Carolina does the unthinkable again. This time, Rattler doesn’t play perfect. He throws 2 interceptions, but he also delivers touchdown passes to Wells and tight end transfer Trey Knox. A revenge game for Tennessee follows a frustrating script. Joe Milton’s fast start fades and Tennessee is forced to turn into a 1-dimensional offense. The Gamecocks pounce on a pair of fumbles, the second of which sets up a game-winning field goal in the final minute. The Vols lose at home for the first time since November 2021.

Remember that time Florida beat South Carolina 38-6 in mid-November and there was no doubt about who had the better football team? Well, the Gators responded by losing at Vandy, at Florida State and to Oregon State while the Gamecocks beat 2 top-10 teams and played Notre Dame down to the wire in a bowl game. Weird. Not so weird? The idea that Rattler moves past last year’s dud in Gainesville with a brilliant showing. Florida DC Austin Armstrong’s pressure packages backfire and South Carolina takes advantage of matchups on the outside. A 31-14 South Carolina victory totally flips the script.

Death, taxes and Mizzou finding a way to beat South Carolina. The last time that didn’t happen was 2018 when the college football gods dropped a monsoon into Williams-Brice Stadium. But just like each of the past 4 years, South Carolina is a shell of itself offensively against Mizzou. Rattler gets picked off by Kris Abrams-Draine, who returns it to the house. The Gamecocks’ ground game can’t muster much of anything against Mizzou DC Blake Baker’s experienced defense. The Sam Horn-led Mizzou offense opens up a bit with some play-action shots to Luther Burden III, and once again, the Tigers find a way to bring South Carolina back to earth.

A&M’s dominance of South Carolina finally ended in 2022, but here’s why order will be restored in this rivalry. Four weeks removed from their last win, the Aggies flip the switch offensively. They attack the South Carolina corners and turn it into a pass-heavy game plan. But unlike when the Gamecocks couldn’t gain a first down in their last visit to College Station in 2021 (that’s what it felt like), this one turns into a back-and-forth shootout. A&M struggles to put away Rattler and the South Carolina offense until an interception on the final drive gives the Aggies a 42-38 victory.

The “LaNorris Sellers is the future” hype builds in a big way after a convincing win.

This is a day in which we’re reminded why South Carolina safety Nick Emmanwori is already one of the SEC’s best defensive players. He’s everywhere. Whether it’s separating receivers from the ball downfield or applying pressure to AJ Swann, Emmanwori does it all en route to SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. It’s needed for the Gamecocks on a day in which Clark Lea’s Year 3 defense keeps the emerging passing game at bay. But South Carolina hangs on for a 21-10 victory.

I get the sense that there’s no love lost between Mark Stoops and Beamer. Will sunglasses be discussed in this one? Maybe. But unlike last year’s rock fight, this one becomes a fun Saturday night SEC Network game. Rattler and UK QB Devin Leary, both vying for All-SEC love, throw 3 touchdown passes apiece in a game that feels like the last team with the ball will win. Kentucky lines up for a 45-yard field goal to tie it at 38 all, but … Beamer Ball strikes. A blocked kick in the final minute is returned for a touchdown and sends the Williams-Brice crowd into a frenzy as South Carolina hangs on.

Yep. Again. Rattler saves his best for last. Again. On Senior Day, Rattler’s best moment yet comes against an unbeaten Clemson squad. Loggains gives Rattler the opportunity to air it out early and often. Just as he did last year, Wells gets behind the Clemson secondary and has a field day. Instead of relying on All-ACC running back Will Shipley to dig Clemson out of an early hole, OC Garrett Riley puts the ball in the hands of QB Cade Klubnik. Clayton White’s defense befuddles the first-year starting quarterback and South Carolina takes advantage of a pair of 2nd-half turnovers. For the 2nd consecutive year, Beamer knocks off Dabo Swinney and puts Clemson’s Playoff hopes in jeopardy.

Most South Carolina fans would take 8-4 all day, every day, especially if it included another win against Clemson. Of course, some would say a 4-4 record in SEC play wasn’t good enough and continuing to lose to Mizzou is equal parts baffling and maddening.

But what the Gamecocks have to show is that 2022 was indeed a building block. Spending the 2023 season outside the AP Top 25 with a lack of national TV games would be a setback. Even if the record is the same as it was a year ago, there’s a chance we’re talking about a much more consistent South Carolina team. We could see Rattler have a much better start with Loggains, and perhaps the struggles that the team has had in the trenches will begin to fade.

Competing for an East title isn’t a realistic goal for 2023. Not with Georgia doing what it’s doing. But having a fun season with more of those “how do you like me now” victories would go a long way for Beamer in his quest to establish South Carolina as an emerging threat in the expanded SEC.

That’s very much on the table.

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“It put South Carolina atop the college football world in consecutive weeks”.

Negative. There was another team that was solidly atop the college football world.

C o c k-a-doodle-doo…

as Class of 98 spurs the little banty rooster O’Gara

Awww…look at the little butt-hurt mutt. “What about us?” boo hoo

Well look at that! A prediction that doesn’t end with 6-6.

Nonetheless, another dumb prediction though

Week 5: at Tennessee (W)

Knoxville is a hard place to win, ask Alabama. 8-4 probably is not good enough for 2nd place, and 8-4 is a stretch. Glad you aren’t betting with my money Conner.

4-4 probably not good enough for second place…

I know how important it must be for SEC fans to have need to include the wins and stats from those Roman gladiator type entertainment games, but SEC teams only play 8 conference games.

South Carolina’s non-conference schedule does include UNC and Clemson, that’s d a m n stout compared to Georgia and Alabama’s non-conference schedule.

Alabama’s record at Neiland Stadium since Saban took over as HC in T-Town:

2008: 29-9 Alabama W2010: 41-10 Alabama W2012: 44-13 Alabama W2014: 34-20 Alabama W2016: 49-10 Alabama W2018: 58-21 Alabama W2020: 48-17 Alabama W2022: 49-52 Alabama L

I really see how the Tide would consider “Knoxville a hard place to win.” ;-)

SC is not Alabama. Correct me if I’m wrong, but SC only has 3 wins in Knoxville. Most sources have SC as underdogs in this one.

You said, “Knoxville is a hard place to win, ask Alabama.” So, I did.

That was their answer.

Ha,ha. Okay you got me. How was that crowd last year in Knoxville? Any other place and Ala. wins.

Except maybe Tiger Stadium…

That venue didn’t appear to be a problem all the other years. It almost wasn’t again last year.

Let’s see how the Vols handle T-Town this season. I hear it can get a bit hostile.

Connor is really down on UT for 2023. I get I have orange shaded glasses, but with what is returning with a senior laden team, defensive improvement, and RB, WR and QB rooms as good as any in the SEC, to suggest UT will go 8-4 in 2023 is Bonkers…

It’s not like Tennessee has had a lot of preseason hype the last 15 years and actually backed it up. Right? :P

They are just betting for history to repeat itself and Tennessee to take a step back from the previous year.

Milton is a step back from Hooker

Braves, I propose the same solution to that problem for the Vols that I’ve recommended to my Gators, “Just win baby!”

See your guys at the Swamp in 3 1/2 weeks.

@Braves, most of the “College Football Nostradamus” are picking it to be a slight down year vs ’22. 10-3 (bowl included) would be slightly down but still a very good year. I just don’t see your Vols losing to sc in Knox. And, that QB room is just as green as most in the SEC so “QB room as good as any in the SEC” is a relative term.

I had to scroll back up and see if the article was titles “bold predictions”

Anything can happen and one mans predictions are as good as anyones in most cases, but I have a hard time seeing a sc win at neyland. its certainly possible but to call for sc to lose to msu at home and then beat Ut at neyland seems just a tad bonkers.

I really hope this is a night game too.

Wow. The delusion runs strong in this one. Bookmarked for Sunday October 1st.

One good season and you got a lot of Tennessee fans trying to act like 2022 was the norm.

That 2019 Georgia State game should still have some humble pie left.

Week 5: at Tennessee (W)

I’d say swap the Miss State and Tennessee predictions, other than that it’s around what I’ve got

Keep dreamin’ Connor. UNC (Toss), FU (W), UGA (L), MissSt (Toss), TN (L), UF (Toss), MIZ (W), aTm (L), JSU (W), VU (W), KY (L), CU (L)… Maybe win 2/3 Tossups and finish 6-6 but they’ll win one they shouldn’t so 7-5 and third or fourth in the East. The coots have lived off two dramatic upsets in ’22, those chickens come home to roost but a bluetick hound and a pissed off tigger will drub the chickens.

….BTW, Liam Coen and Devin Leary gonna light up that coot secondary.

I am thinking same as you. Questionable: RB, OL, DL, DEPTH. Ain’t buying it.

Not losing to MSU then beating TN in Knoxville. They will beat Missouri and lose to Clemson. The rest seem reasonable predictions. Mine does not change the predicted record, obviously, I just find those particular predictions off.


South Carolina vs Vols was definitely a fluke. Rattler played the game of his life and vols defense was dealing with off the field drama with Jeremy Banks fiasco. I expect vols to win big in neyland this year, but maybe lose to a Kentucky this season.

connor must be a ‘cock lover

Lol, the Vol fans crying in their c0ck shaped pillows after this, lol